On Wednesday, The R&A and USGA announced plans for the golf ball to be rolled back from 2028 for pros and 2030 for amateurs, with new balls expected to see a reduction in distance of 13-15 yards for the longest hitters, 9-11 yards for the average touring pro and 5-7 yards for an average female pro.
One of the biggest hitting pros, as seen by the fact he led the PGA Tour driving distance in the 2022-23 season, is Rory McIlroy who, despite being affected by the measures most, is actually in favor of the rollback, with the four-time Major winner giving his thoughts to Sky Sports following the announcement.
"I think this change will make the game more skilful again" 💬World number two golfer Rory McIlroy has backed the new changes to rules regarding golf ball specifications which will see a reduce in distance they travel 🏌️👇 pic.twitter.com/XamHvgVhBADecember 6, 2023
"For the last couple of decades, we have been talking about what to do, especially as golf courses are getting longer, they're needing more acreage to build courses, is that sustainable?" stated McIlroy, who picked up a fifth Race to Dubai title in 2023, as well as multiple PGA Tour titles.
"Because they're building more acreage they're needing more water to maintain them. There’s all of these environmental factors that come into it - I think that’s the biggest reason we should do this.
"But, also, from a professional that plays the game, I think it’ll bring back some skills into the pro game that have maybe been lost. I actually think it will make the pro game more entertaining to watch. I think you’re going to see a different variety of games succeed, it’s not just going to be this bomb and gouge that we see predominantly now when you watch the top level of golf."
It's not the first time that McIlroy has voiced his opinion on the matter. Just a few days prior to the announcement, he broke his X - formerly Twitter - hiatus to insist that marginally reducing the distance a ball travels will improve the sport on multiple fronts while failing to really impact "the average golfer."
At the time, McIlroy wrote: "I don’t understand the anger about the golf ball roll back. It will make no difference whatsoever to the average golfer and puts golf back on a path of sustainability..."
As mentioned, another factor is the length of the course and, with the ball being rolled back by a number of yards, it does open up the chance for more golf courses to be bought back on to the calendar. Again, this is something McIlroy agrees with, as he stated on Sky: “It will bring some of the great, classic courses back into consideration when we go to Major championships."
He added: "That’s why I’m a big proponent of just making the ball go a little shorter and, because of that, it may spin a little more and shot shaping may come back into it and long irons get played a little bit more. I just think it will make the game at the top level a little bit more skillful again."